8 November 2012

Gambia: Bensouda Addresses UN Security Council

The Gambian-born chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on Wednesday made her first official presentation to the UN Security Council as the Hague-based courts top prosecutor, calling on the Libya's new government to reject any amnesty for crimes committed by the forces which brought down late dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

Fatou Bensouda called on the new government "to ensure that there is no amnesty for international crimes and no impunity for crimes, regardless of who the perpetrator is and who is the victim." She said Libya should not grant amnesty for war crimes committed during last year's uprising against former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, regardless of who committed them,.

The ICC boss said that the ICC's pre-trial chamber would decide "in due course" on whether the late Libyan leader's son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi should be tried in Libya or The Hague. She recalled the Libyan authorities' stated commitment to ensuring that there would be no impunity for crimes committed during the fight to overthrow Gaddafi, who was captured and killed by rebels in October 2011 after a half-year civil war.

She pointed to a recently approved Libyan law that raises the possibility of amnesty for "acts made necessary by the 17 February revolution," apparently creating the possibility of not prosecuting crimes committed by anti-Gaddafi fighters. "I encourage the new Libyan government, scheduled to be sworn in tomorrow, on 8 November, to ensure that there is no amnesty for international crimes and no impunity for crimes, regardless of who the perpetrator is and who is the victim," she told the 15-nation council.

Bensouda said she understood that the Libyan government has committed itself to a strategy of addressing all crimes committed in the country. "I encourage the government of Libya to make this strategy public, and to work with key partners to receive feedback on this strategy and to seek out the views and concerns of victims in Libya. Early finalization of this strategy will be yet another milestone on Libya's path to democracy and rule of law."

Richard Dicker, an international law expert at Human Rights Watch, welcomed Bensouda's remarks on the Libyan amnesty law, which he described as "an affront to victims of serious crimes and a flagrant violation ... of Libya's responsibilities."

Tug of war

Libya is not an ICC member but the Security Council referred Gaddafi's violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters during last year's Arab Spring uprising to the ICC in February 2011. Bensouda said her office continued to gather information on a possible second Libyan case focusing on allegations of rape and sexual violence targeting men and women, allegations against other members of Gaddafi's government, and charges of crimes committed by rebel forces. "I will take a decision on the direction of a possible second case in the near future," Bensouda said.

Libyan authorities have refused to extradite Saif al-Islam Gaddafi to face charges in war crimes committed during the NATO-backed revolt that toppled his father last year. Libya wants to try Saif al-Islam in its own courts, but judicial experts say he is unlikely to get a fair trial. "If ... the Court rules that the case should be heard before the ICC, I will count on Libya's full support and cooperation to ensure that the ICC's proceedings are both successful and are seen to be successful by the Libyan public," Bensouda said.

The prosecutor called on the government to unveil a promised strategy to end impunity in the country as it recovers from the chaotic events of 2011. She offered ICC help "to make justice a reality for Libya's victims" and called on other countries to intensify efforts "in any way they can to combat impunity and reinforce a culture of the rule of law" in Libya.

Bensouda said that if Libya's challenge to the ICC succeed, her office would monitor the proceedings in Libya "to ensure that they remain genuine." She added that if the ICC rules that Libya must hand over the suspects "I will count on Libya's full support and cooperation to ensure that the ICC's proceedings are both successful and are seen to be successful by the Libyan public."

In addition to the ICC indictments against Gaddafi and his son Saif al-Islam, the court indicted Gaddafi's former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi, one of the most feared members of Gaddafi's inner circle, for war crimes. His capture in Mauritania in March triggered a tug of war between Libya, France and the ICC for his extradition.

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